Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
Sicilian breakfast brioche
When in Sicily, do as the Sicilians do. And if that means eating ice cream sandwiches for breakfast, then we’re OK with that. Yes, a typical way to start the day in Sicily is a brioche bun with either granita or gelato, also known as the original ice cream sandwich (and with the country’s Mediterranean climate, we can understand why). We had this pillowy brioche bun with almond granita and two kinds of gelato at Caffè Sicilia in Noto, Sicily. If you’ve been watching the latest series of popular cooking show Chef’s Table on Netflix, you'll have heard of the café and its co-owner and chef Corrado Assenza. Caffè Sicilia has been in the same family for over 100 years, making excellent pastries, gelato and granita. We tried the chocolate gelato spiced with cinnamon and orange peel, and a tangy ricotta flavour with pistachio nibs – it was some of the best gelato we’ve ever had.
Those familiar with poitín might know it as an Irish grain spirit, brewed illegally at home in certain parts of Ireland, where it was banned for centuries. Legalised in 1997, the spirit is now having a revival, with brands like Micil taking off in recent years. Micil Distillery founder Pádraic Ó Griallais explains: ‘Micil is named after my great-great-great-grandfather and the craft has been handed down from generation to generation. I was the first in the family to be able to make it legally, so I decided to make a go of bringing our family craft to the world.’ And it’s proved popular – you’ll now find Micil Poitín on cocktail menus throughout Ireland, particularly in Galway, Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. We tried it on a recent trip to Galway. Not for the faint-hearted, the clear spirit is very strong when drunk neat, but its earthy, floral notes make it great in cocktails, particularly with citrus flavours.
Croquettes with oxtail mayo
With their oozy filling and crunchy breaded coating, it’s no surprise that Spanish-style croquettes are common on restaurant menus, with variations on the filling ranging from classic Spanish ham & cheese to spinach and even beef shin. But despite the delicious golden appearance of the cheese croquettes at new restaurant The Jones Family Kitchen in Belgravia, London, it was the dipping sauce they were served with that piqued our interest – oxtail mayo. ‘Traditional Spanish croquettes often have ham inside, but I wanted to make a meaty dip instead and keep the croquettes simple,’ says executive chef Oliver Pollard. ‘We already make delicious slow-cooked oxtail to top our signature chuck burger, and I realised the remaining sauce would make a banging base to a luscious mayonnaise. It pairs perfectly with the cheese croquettes, as the deep umami flavour of the slow-braised oxtail adds extra richness.’
Kimchi fried crab
There’s a new KFC on the scene, and not a chicken in sight. This kimchi fried crab is just one of the exciting new dishes on the menu at seafood restaurant Claw in Soho, London. Tapping into two of this year’s biggest food trends – deep-fried everything and seafood – Claw’s ‘KFC’ uses British crab which is put into a solution of milk and salt water (to keep it crispy when cooked) before being dunked in togarashi spiced flour and deep-fried. The result is a crisp, salty, mildly spiced batter with soft, delicate crabmeat inside. Lighter than fried chicken, it pairs well with the accompanying sweet mayo (flavoured with lemon and Japanese mirin) and tangy kimchi. As well as its London restaurant, Claw’s seafood-based street food can be found at various festivals across the country this summer. Check their website to find out more.
During British Sandwich Week we tried…
Pork belly & kimchi bap
What better way for us to kick off British Sandwich Week than to check out the brand new sarnie shop on the block, The Black Hamburg? The block in this case is Finsbury Park, London – this teeny-tiny shop next to Finsbury Park station specialises in sandwiches and killer kimchi, with a short menu that changes regularly. We tried the latest special: glazed pork belly, house-made kimchi, burnt onion mayo and gem lettuce in a brioche bun. We may have needed a bib to eat it, but the messy ones are the good ones, right? This generously-filled bap had a delicious combination of salty-sweet pork, tangy spiced kimchi and sweet oniony mayonnaise.
Fish finger sandwich
The fish finger sarnie is about as British a sandwich as you can get, especially one that’s made with sustainable Cornish pollock. We had this fish finger roll (amusingly titled The Dog’s Pollock) from Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth’s food stall in the Marlow site of Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park food festival. Crisp, freshly fried fish, tangy mustard mayo, crunchy pickled cucumber and dill, all held together in a sweet brioche roll, resulted in the best fish finger sandwich we’ve ever eaten. And that’s saying something. You can still visit Pub in the Park in Bath (8-10 June), Tunbridge Wells (6-8 July) and Knutsford (7-9 September), but chefs and stalls change with each site.
Hot pork chicharrón roll
Peruvian cuisine is here to stay, with more restaurants opening across the country and online searches for Peruvian dishes seeing a huge spike – particularly after the latest series of Masterchef, in which the contestants visited Lima. Ceviche may be the country’s most famous dish, but it’s Peruvian baking that’s now having a moment in the limelight. We visited Andina Bakery, a brand new Peruvian bakery in Notting Hill, London, to try their pork chicharrón roll. Made with freshly baked (we’re talking right in front of you) pan francés, a French-inspired bread commonly used for sandwiches in Peru, it’s filled with pork, sweet potato, tangy pickled red onions and an amarillo chilli mayo. The sweet bakes are delicious too, including fluffy macarons with a guava centre and a Peruvian take on a pastel de nata (Portugese custard tart) using lucuma, a fruit that's native to South America.
Mango fans, rejoice – alphonso mango season is here. The short season, lasting from now until the end of June, is cause for annual celebration in India. Why? Because this isn’t just any old fruit. Alphonso mangoes are thought of as superior to other mango varieties, as they’re much sweeter and more fragrant. This month, Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Jamavar in Mayfair, London, is celebrating the fruit's arrival with a special menu, using the mango in several of their dishes. Highlights include a cocktail of gin, alphonso mango, coriander, lime juice and a shaving of coconut, and a starter (pictured) of beautifully spiced aloo tikki (potato cake) with honey, yogurt and white radish, served with a raw alphonso mango and mint chutney. The mango adds a refreshing sweetness that perfectly complements the salty, spicy potato cake. Look out for alphonso mangoes in your local greengrocer – they’re the ones with the golden skins.
Lavender & honey ice cream
Floral flavours are so hot right now. Or so cold, as the case may be… We’re seeing flavours like rose, lavender and elderflower appearing much more, not just in cakes and drinks, but in ice creams and sorbets too. We tried lavender ice cream with honey and homemade honeycomb at London’s Four Winters – creamy, sweet and heady with lavender, the ice cream pairs well with the drizzle of honey and crunchy honeycomb pieces. Jude’s has also recently launched a limited edition rose-flavoured ice cream (available this month only at The Pear Tree Café) and Gelupo is serving up kiwi, gin and elderflower sorbet. Fancy making something floral and frozen? Try our lychee & rosewater ice cream or gooseberry & elderflower yogurt ice.
Following a recent rise in artisan tonics, craft vodkas and an ever-expanding range of vermouths, it's no surprise that amaro is getting an update too. Amaro is an Italian bitter liqueur which makes a great digestif, and this version by Mr Black is no exception with its deep, indulgent coffee flavour. Made with toasted coffee and infused with botanicals such as orange and caraway, it has a complex flavour which, like other more traditional amaros, means it works beautifully in cocktails. We recommend serving it with soda water, ice and a wedge of orange, but it could also work well with a splash of dry vermouth and a cardamom-heavy gin in a negroni-style drink. You can buy it online here.
Strawberries & cream
Yes, this is strawberries & cream, but not as you know it. Renowned pastry chef Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, recently launched afternoon tea at his bakery in Belgravia, London. Between rounds of inventive savoury and sweet bites came a course of scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Sounds traditional enough, but what if we told you that the jam and cream came inside a strawberry? The fruits in the photo aren’t real strawberries at all – they’re made with a thin layer of carefully shaped, coloured white chocolate, filled with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. Genius. Place one on your warm, fluffy scone and it becomes instantly spreadable, leaving you with the perfect amount of cream, jam (so fresh that it tastes more like strawberry purée) and a hint of sweet white chocolate on your scone. It’s utterly delicious. Full review coming to BBC Good Food’s afternoon tea guide soon.
Chef Greg Marchand (of Frenchie restaurant) says biscornue de Roques-Hautes, also known as a wonky Roques-Hautes asparagus, fits perfectly with his ‘natural cuisine’ ethos. Failing to fit the norm (and possibly quite tricky to bundle), these spears grown in Senas in the south of France previously went to market to less fussy customers – now they head to Frenchie. The curve happens if the young spear gets nicked by a knife as a straight spear growing next to it is harvested. After that point they’ll no longer grow straight, but they still taste just as amazing. We ate them with pickled egg yolks and parmesan mousse at a preview dinner for Taste London. Greg will be one of five chefs – including Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet, Niklas Ekstedt of Ekstedt, Sean Gray of Momofuku Ko and Manoella Buffara of Manu – cooking four-course meals on different days at The Residence, presented by Zacapa rum (so expect cocktails). The event runs from June 13th to 17th, and tickets are available here.
Ever tried a loquat? Originating in Asia, this fruit is also known as Japanese plum or Japanese medlar – it's plum-like in size and has a taste somewhere between plums, peaches and apricots. It's in season now, and we’ve seen it on several restaurant menus this week, including roasted like peaches in a summer salad, used in a tagine-style dish with braised lamb, or stewed in sugar and served with buckwheat ice cream for dessert. We got our hands on some loquats from a local greengrocer, cooked them with vanilla, sugar and a squeeze of lemon, and blitzed them into a purée to make delicious loquat bellinis. Look for loquats in your local greengrocer or find them from Natoora on Ocado.com.
Meet the avolato (avocado + gelato, get it?) Recently launched by Snowflake Luxury Gelato at Selfridges Food Hall, this dessert is taking the avocado trend to a whole new level. Set in a real avocado skin, the ‘gelato’ itself is made from 60% Hass avocado and sweetened with grape sugar. Its ‘stone’ is also edible, made using a mix of Pip & Nut peanut butter, soy milk, flax seeds and nuts. The result is a smooth, creamy-tasting, mousse-like, 100% vegan dessert with a soft nutty centre. It's served in two halves and costs £9.50 – we advise sharing. Find it in Selfridges Food Hall London from now throughout summer.
‘The love child of sushi and a sandwich’ – a concept so genius and so seemingly simple that we’re wondering why we haven’t seen it here before. It might just be the ideal al-desko lunch. Inspired by onigirazu (a Japanese rice sandwich, often used in lunchboxes in Japan) and a love of global street food, Norigami founder Arthur Liegeois came up with his own version of the sushi sandwich. Wrapped in sushi rice and nori seaweed, his flavour-packed, globally inspired fillings range from Sri Lankan vegan curry (spicy potato, onion, spiced pickled carrots, coriander, parsley) to Moroccan chermoulah chicken (marinated chicken, sweet and sour red cabbage, spinach leaves) and, staying closer to its roots, Japanese miso roasted salmon with sesame seeds, crunchy pickled cucumber and green beans. Don’t miss the two-week Norigami pop up at Sourced Market, St Pancras International station or order lunch online (London only).
As Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine continues to soar in popularity in the UK, thanks in part to chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghayour, so too do the ingredients used. We’ve noticed more restaurants, recipes and chefs using Aleppo chilli. A Turkish chilli named after the Syrian city of Aleppo, the dried chilli flakes have a milder, sweeter and slightly tangier flavour than standard chilli flakes. It's normally found in savoury dishes, but we found it in a dessert – this dark chocolate and toasted sourdough bark with caramel and Aleppo chilli was served at a supper club collaboration between catering company Caiger & Co and Mazi Mas, a social enterprise which trains refugee and migrant women in hospitality. If you'd like to cook with Aleppo chilli, you can buy it online at Sous Chef or Ottolenghi.
Haggis bon bons
Hot, crispy, oat- and cheddar-crumbed haggis bon bons dunked in whisky mayonnaise? Possibly the most Scottish and definitely the most delicious starter we’ve had in a while. We tried these at Waterfront Fishouse restaurant in Oban. With a beautiful view over the harbour, Waterfront Fishouse specialises in seafood, including local smoked salmon and creel-caught langoustines, brought in daily by a fisherman affectionally nicknamed ‘Gordon the Prawn’. We followed these haggis bon bons with a seabass fillet stuffed with crab and prawn, served on smoked salmon mash with asparagus & caper butter. Visiting Oban? Make a stop at Waterfront Fishouse or check out our Boozy Breaks travel guide for more restaurants, distilleries and cafes to try in Oban.
Missed an entry in our food diary? Find out what we've eaten previously...
What we ate in April 2018